Of New Year's past, present, and future

31 years ago:

Guy Lombardo is credited with popularizing Auld Lang Syne as the New Year's song of record on January 1, 1930. Lombardo's New Year's Eve broadcasts continued for many years; the one shown in the video was Lombardo's last as he died in November 1977. His brother Victor and son Bill helped ring in 1978 and 1979, respectively, on CBS. From 1980 to the mid-1990s, CBS had a program called Happy New Year, America, which featured different hosts over the years, including Donny Osmond, Andy Williams, and Natalie Cole. YouTube has a number of recordings of Happy New Year, America. Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve came around on 12/31/1972.

We are hours away from the 100th ball drop in the history of Times Square. To celebrate, they have introduced a new, fancier, and more energy-efficient ball. Here's more information on the new ball.

In the fall of 1995, as my mom was preparing to tuck in my eight-year-old self one night, we talked about a few holiday-related things - Christmas presents, July 4 fireworks, etc. One of the things she brought up was the fact that at New Year’s Eve, they drop a ball in New York that reaches the bottom right at the instant it becomes the New Year. I envisioned not that someone would literally stand on a building and then dop a ball, but that a ball attached to a tall building would glide down the side of a building, reaching the ground at midnight.

Fast forward to December 31, 1995. Mom, Dad, and I were invited to the house of our family friends Al and Connie, whom we knew from church. There I, eight years old, attended the only New Year’s Eve party I’ve ever attended. After eating, playing “Win, Lose, or Draw,” and chatting, someone turned on the TV, where a familiar face - Dick Clark from the $100,000 Pyramid - appeared. I saw the ball sitting atop a pole - in a different form than I had imagined. Then, after we all counted down, I saw the 1996 sign light up, and for reasons long forgotten in the twelve years since (perhaps nostalgia) I started to cry.

I have stayed home to ring in 1997 and each year since. That was the second of only three times in which all three of us - Mom, Dad, and myself (my brother spent some winters in Tucson at the University of Arizona and would either go to a party or sleep right through it) - have rung in the New Year together. Many years since then my dad has bartended at the Knights of Columbus New Year’s Party, or just sleeping in with Dereck.

I welcomed 1998 and 1999 with Mom and Grandma. At midnight going into 1998, I threw confetti I had cut up from scrap paper over the course of my Christmas break from school. Mom had also bought some pre-packaged confetti, but I saved it in case the University of Michigan won the Rose Bowl. They did, and I celebrated by dumping it on the floor and letting it make a mess of the living room and, as it turned out, the whole house. You see, we ended up tracing it throughout the house for several days and weeks; we’d even find a piece or two every now and then up to a couple years later! The tradition of ‘throwing’ confetti at New Year’s continued for all of one more year.

We didn’t celebrate the new millennium in 2000 - we celebrated in 2001. You see, we believed that there wasn’t a ‘year 0' - that the First Century went from AD 1-100, the second from AD 101-200, etc. Anyway, Grandma didn’t feel up to coming over and welcoming 2000 with us; she was 83 and we’d have to carry her in the car, then help her up the stairs. She decided to stay home. On 12/31/99 I was a little confused my ABC’s clock and didn’t even know the ball was dropping until about 20-25 seconds before midnight! (That never happened before or since.)

From the summer of 2000 on, Grandma spent most of her time at our house, sleeping next to Mom while Dad occupied Dereck’s room while he was in Arizona. While the parents went to a church New Year’s Eve party, Grandma and I stayed home and watched the excitement. As we counted down, I could hardly contain my excitement at the fact that what I believed to be the start of the new millennium was just seconds away. “Three! Two! One! Happy New Millennium!” was followed by my very first try at singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight on New Year’s (I knew the tune, but had just recently learned the lyrics). Grandma later told Mom I was good at it! That was Grandma’s last New Year’s; she passed away just six weeks later, February 13, 2001.

At 11:58 PM on December 31, 2001, I slyly went to the closet to get some silly string. I hid it behind the chair, and around 11:59:40 or so I grabbed it. Then just as I saw the 2002 sign light up in Times Square at midnight, Mom and then Dad found themselves covered in a gooey mess. They didn’t see that coming! A year later I began 2003 with a shout of “I love you, Jenny!” to celebrate the election of Jennifer Granholm, who was to become Governor of Michigan twelve hours later.

From 1999 to 2003 my paternal grandparents would call us mere seconds after midnight to wish us a happy new year. In 2004 I called them. Then in Apriul of that year, my grandfather passed away, and my grandmother went into a nursing home a couple months later. She called me earlier that evening to wish me a happy new year early before going to bed, reminding me of how she and Grandpa always used to call us.

I have recorded each of the last three ball drops on tape. To ring in 2005 Regis Philbin substituted for Dick Clark, who just weeks earlier suffered a stroke. Clark returned to welcome 2006, but his voice was quite raspy. I was saddened by how the ‘old Dick Clark’ seemed to have been lost by his stroke.

My parents both helped out at the Knights of Columbus hall on New Year’s Eve three of the last four years, so I’ve been alone, forced to ‘kiss’ my dogs at midnight. (That’s okay, I don’t really mind celebrating New Year’s alone).

This will be my 13th consecutive year watching the ball drop on New Year's Rockin' Eve. Mom and I will probably welcome in 2008 in the living room, watching New Year's Rockin' Eve, perhaps using a few noisemakers while I wear a plastic green top hat as she wears a tiara. Who knows what kind of food we'll eat? I know that this is my last New Year's before I turn 21. I'm just saying.

Maybe a few years from now I'll be among the million or so people who jam into Times Square on New Year’s Eve, standing for several hours on end braving the cold and not being able to use the restroom. I hear there’s nothing like it. Just give me some time to build up my stamina!

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